Vailima Prayers & Sabbath Morn
Robert Louis Stevenson
Prayers Written At Vailima
In every Samoan household the day is closed with prayer and the
singing of hymns. The omission of this sacred duty would indicate,
not only a lack of religious training in the house chief, but a
shameless disregard of all that is reputable in Samoan social life.
No doubt, to many, the evening service is no more than a duty
fulfilled. The child who says his prayer at his mother's knee can
have no real conception of the meaning of the words he lisps so
readily, yet he goes to his little bed with a sense of heavenly
protection that he would miss were the prayer forgotten. The
average Samoan is but a larger child in most things, and would lay
an uneasy head on his wooden pillow if he had not joined, even
perfunctorily, in the evening service. With my husband, prayer,
the direct appeal, was a necessity. When he was happy he felt
impelled to offer thanks for that undeserved joy; when in sorrow,
or pain, to call for strength to bear what must be borne.
Vailima lay up some three miles of continual rise from Apia, and
more than half that distance from the nearest village. It was a
long way for a tired man to walk down every evening with the sole
purpose of joining in family worship; and the road through the bush
was dark, and, to the Samoan imagination, beset with supernatural
terrors. Wherefore, as soon as our household had fallen into a
regular routine, and the bonds of Samoan family life began to draw
us more closely together, Tusitala felt the necessity of including
our retainers in our evening devotions. I suppose ours was the
only white man's family in all Samoa, except those of the
missionaries, where the day naturally ended with this homely,
patriarchal custom. Not only were the religious scruples of the
natives satisfied, but, what we did not foresee, our own
respectability - and incidentally that of our retainers - became
assured, and the influence of Tusitala increased tenfold.
After all work and meals were finished, the 'pu,' or war conch, was
sounded from the back veranda and the front, so that it might be
heard by all. I don't think it ever occurred to us that there was
any incongruity in the use of the war conch for the peaceful
invitation to prayer. In response to its summons the white members
of the family took their usual places in one end of the large hall,
while the Samoans - men, women, and children - trooped in through
all the open doors, some carrying lanterns if the evening were
dark, all moving quietly and dropping with Samoan decorum in a wide
semicircle on the floor beneath a great lamp that hung from the
ceiling. The service began by my son reading a chapter from the
Samoan Bible, Tusitala following with a prayer in English,
sometimes impromptu, but more often from the notes in this little
book, interpolating or changing with the circumstance of the day.
Then came the singing of one or more hymns in the native tongue,
and the recitation in concert of the Lord's Prayer, also in Samoan.
Many of these hymns were set to ancient tunes, very wild and
warlike, and strangely at variance with the missionary words.
Sometimes a passing band of hostile warriors, with blackened faces,
would peer in at us through the open windows, and often we were
forced to pause until the strangely savage, monotonous noise of the
native drums had ceased; but no Samoan, nor, I trust, white person,
changed his reverent attitude. Once, I remember a look of
surprised dismay crossing the countenance of Tusitala when my son,
contrary to his usual custom of reading the next chapter following
that of yesterday, turned back the leaves of his Bible to find a
chapter fiercely denunciatory, and only too applicable to the
foreign dictators of distracted Samoa. On another occasion the
chief himself brought the service to a sudden check. He had just
learned of the treacherous conduct of one in whom he had every
reason to trust. That evening the prayer seemed unusually short
and formal. As the singing stopped he arose abruptly and left the
room. I hastened after him, fearing some sudden illness. 'What is
it?' I asked. 'It is this,' was the reply; 'I am not yet fit to
say, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass
It is with natural reluctance that I touch upon the last prayer of
my husband's life. Many have supposed that he showed, in the
wording of this prayer, that he had some premonition of his
approaching death. I am sure he had no such premonition. It was I
who told the assembled family that I felt an impending disaster
approaching nearer and nearer. Any Scot will understand that my
statement was received seriously. It could not be, we thought,
that danger threatened any one within the house; but Mr. Graham
Balfour, my husband's cousin, very near and dear to us, was away on
a perilous cruise. Our fears followed the various vessels, more or
less unseaworthy, in which he was making his way from island to
island to the atoll where the exiled king, Mataafa, was at that
time imprisoned. In my husband's last prayer, the night before his
death, he asked that we should be given strength to bear the loss
of this dear friend, should such a sorrow befall us.
Another For Evening
In Time of Rain
Another in Time of Rain
Before a Temporary Separation
For the Family
For Renewal of Joy
LORD, behold our family here assembled. We thank Thee for this
place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace
accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect the morrow;
for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies, that make
our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth,
and our friendly helpers in this foreign isle. Let peace abound in
our small company. Purge out of every heart the lurking grudge.
Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Offenders,
give us the grace to accept and to forgive offenders. Forgetful
ourselves, help us to bear cheerfully the forgetfulness of others.
Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our
friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all
our innocent endeavours. If it may not, give us the strength to
encounter that which is to come, that we be brave in peril,
constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of
fortune, and, down to the gates of death, loyal and loving one to
another. As the clay to the potter, as the windmill to the wind,
as children of their sire, we beseech of Thee this help and mercy
for Christ's sake.
GRANT that we here before Thee may be set free from the fear of
vicissitude and the fear of death, may finish what remains before
us of our course without dishonour to ourselves or hurt to others,
and, when the day comes, may die in peace. Deliver us from fear
and favour: from mean hopes and cheap pleasures. Have mercy on
each in his deficiency; let him be not cast down; support the
stumbling on the way, and give at last rest to the weary.
THE day returns and brings us the petty round of irritating
concerns and duties. Help us to play the man, help us to perform
them with laughter and kind faces, let cheerfulness abound with
industry. Give us to go blithely on our business all this day,
bring us to our resting beds weary and content and undishonoured,
and grant us in the end the gift of sleep.
WE come before Thee, O Lord, in the end of thy day with
Our beloved in the far parts of the earth, those who are now
beginning the labours of the day what time we end them, and those
with whom the sun now stands at the point of noon, bless, help,
console, and prosper them.
Our guard is relieved, the service of the day is over, and the hour
come to rest. We resign into thy hands our sleeping bodies, our
cold hearths, and open doors. Give us to awake with smiles, give
us to labour smiling. As the sun returns in the east, so let our
patience be renewed with dawn; as the sun lightens the world, so
let our loving-kindness make bright this house of our habitation.
ANOTHER FOR EVENING
LORD, receive our supplications for this house, family, and
country. Protect the innocent, restrain the greedy and the
treacherous, lead us out of our tribulation into a quiet land.
Look down upon ourselves and upon our absent dear ones. Help us
and them; prolong our days in peace and honour. Give us health,
food, bright weather, and light hearts. In what we meditate of
evil, frustrate our will; in what of good, further our endeavours.
Cause injuries to be forgot and benefits to be remembered.
Let us lie down without fear and awake and arise with exultation.
For his sake, in whose words we now conclude.
IN TIME OF RAIN
WE thank Thee, Lord, for the glory of the late days and the
excellent face of thy sun. We thank Thee for good news received.
We thank Thee for the pleasures we have enjoyed and for those we
have been able to confer. And now, when the clouds gather and the
rain impends over the forest and our house, permit us not to be
cast down; let us not lose the savour of past mercies and past
pleasures; but, like the voice of a bird singing in the rain, let
grateful memory survive in the hour of darkness. If there be in
front of us any painful duty, strengthen us with the grace of
courage; if any act of mercy, teach us tenderness and patience.
ANOTHER IN TIME OF RAIN
LORD, Thou sendest down rain upon the uncounted millions of the
forest, and givest the trees to drink exceedingly. We are here
upon this isle a few handfuls of men, and how many myriads upon
myriads of stalwart trees! Teach us the lesson of the trees. The
sea around us, which this rain recruits, teems with the race of
fish; teach us, Lord, the meaning of the fishes. Let us see
ourselves for what we are, one out of the countless number of the
clans of thy handiwork. When we would despair, let us remember
that these also please and serve Thee.
BEFORE A TEMPORARY SEPARATION
TO-DAY we go forth separate, some of us to pleasure, some of us to
worship, some upon duty. Go with us, our guide and angel; hold
Thou before us in our divided paths the mark of our low calling,
still to be true to what small best we can attain to. Help us in
that, our maker, the dispenser of events - Thou, of the vast
designs, in which we blindly labour, suffer us to be so far
constant to ourselves and our beloved.
FOR our absent loved ones we implore thy loving-kindness. Keep
them in life, keep them in growing honour; and for us, grant that
we remain worthy of their love. For Christ's sake, let not our
beloved blush for us, nor we for them. Grant us but that, and
grant us courage to endure lesser ills unshaken, and to accept
death, loss, and disappointment as it were straws upon the tide of
FOR THE FAMILY
AID us, if it be thy will, in our concerns. Have mercy on this
land and innocent people. Help them who this day contend in
disappointment with their frailties. Bless our family, bless our
forest house, bless our island helpers. Thou who hast made for us
this place of ease and hope, accept and inflame our gratitude; help
us to repay, in service one to another, the debt of thine unmerited
benefits and mercies, so that, when the period of our stewardship
draws to a conclusion, when the windows begin to be darkened, when
the bond of the family is to be loosed, there shall be no
bitterness of remorse in our farewells.
Help us to look back on the long way that Thou hast brought us, on
the long days in which we have been served, not according to our
deserts, but our desires; on the pit and the miry clay, the
blackness of despair, the horror of misconduct, from which our feet
have been plucked out. For our sins forgiven or prevented, for our
shame unpublished, we bless and thank Thee, O God. Help us yet
again and ever. So order events, so strengthen our frailty, as
that day by day we shall come before Thee with this song of
gratitude, and in the end we be dismissed with honour. In their
weakness and their fear, the vessels of thy handiwork so pray to
Thee, so praise Thee. Amen.
WE beseech Thee, Lord, to behold us with favour, folk of many
families and nations gathered together in the peace of this roof,
weak men and women subsisting under the covert of thy patience. Be
patient still; suffer us yet awhile longer; - with our broken
purposes of good, with our idle endeavours against evil, suffer us
awhile longer to endure, and (if it may be) help us to do better.
Bless to us our extraordinary mercies; if the day come when these
must be taken, brace us to play the man under affliction. Be with
our friends, be with ourselves. Go with each of us to rest; if any
awake, temper to them the dark hours of watching; and when the day
returns, return to us, our sun and comforter, and call us up with
morning faces and with morning hearts - eager to labour - eager to
be happy, if happiness shall be our portion - and if the day be
marked for sorrow, strong to endure it.
We thank Thee and praise Thee; and in the words of him to whom this
day is sacred, close our oblation.
LORD, enlighten us to see the beam that is in our own eye, and
blind us to the mote that is in our brother's. Let us feel our
offences with our hands, make them great and bright before us like
the sun, make us eat them and drink them for our diet. Blind us to
the offences of our beloved, cleanse them from our memories, take
them out of our mouths for ever. Let all here before Thee carry
and measure with the false balances of love, and be in their own
eyes and in all conjunctures the most guilty. Help us at the same
time with the grace of courage, that we be none of us cast down
when we sit lamenting amid the ruins of our happiness or our
integrity: touch us with fire from the altar, that we may be up
and doing to rebuild our city: in the name and by the method of
him in whose words of prayer we now conclude.
LORD, the creatures of thy hand, thy disinherited children, come
before Thee with their incoherent wishes and regrets: Children we
are, children we shall be, till our mother the earth hath fed upon
our bones. Accept us, correct us, guide us, thy guilty innocents.
Dry our vain tears, wipe out our vain resentments, help our yet
vainer efforts. If there be any here, sulking as children will,
deal with and enlighten him. Make it day about that person, so
that he shall see himself and be ashamed. Make it heaven about
him, Lord, by the only way to heaven, forgetfulness of self, and
make it day about his neighbours, so that they shall help, not
FOR RENEWAL OF JOY
WE are evil, O God, and help us to see it and amend. We are good,
and help us to be better. Look down upon thy servants with a
patient eye, even as Thou sendest sun and rain; look down, call
upon the dry bones, quicken, enliven; recreate in us the soul of
service, the spirit of peace; renew in us the sense of joy.
A Lowden Sabbath Morn
THE clinkum-clank o' Sabbath bells
Noo to the hoastin' rookery swells,
Noo faintin' laigh in shady dells,
Sounds far an' near,
An' through the simmer kintry tells
Its tale o' cheer.
An' noo, to that melodious play,
A deidly awn the quiet sway -
A' ken their solemn holiday,
Bestial an' human,
The singin' lintie on the brae,
The restin' plou'man.
He, mair than a' the lave o' men,
His week completit joys to ken;
Half-dressed, he daunders out an' in,
Perplext wi' leisure;
An' his raxt limbs he'll rax again
Wi' painfu' pleesure.
The steerin' mither strang afit
Noo shoos the bairnies but a bit;
Noo cries them ben, their Sinday shuit
To scart upon them,
Or sweeties in their pouch to pit,
Wi' blessin's on them.
The lasses, clean frae tap to taes,
Are busked in crunklin' underclaes;
The gartened hose, the weel-filled stays,
The nakit shift,
A' bleached on bonny greens for days,
An' white's the drift.
An' noo to face the kirkward mile
The guidman's hat o' dacent style,
The blackit shoon, we noon maun fyle
As white's the miller:
A waefu' peety tae, to spile
The warth o' siller.
Our Marg'et, aye sae keen to crack,
Douce-stappin' in the stoury track,
Her emeralt goun a' kiltit back
Frae snawy coats,
White-ankled, leads the kirkward pack
Wi' Dauvit Groats.
A thocht ahint, in runkled breeks,
A' spiled wi' lyin' by for weeks,
The guidman follows closs, an' cleiks
The sonsie misses;
His sarious face at aince bespeaks
The day that this is.
And aye an' while we nearer draw
To whaur the kirkton lies alaw,
Mair neebours, comin' saft an' slaw
Frae here an' there,
The thicker thrang the gate, an' caw
The stour in air.
But hark! the bells frae nearer clang
To rowst the slaw, their sides they bang
An' see! black coats a'ready thrang
The green kirkyaird;
And at the yett, the chestnuts spang
That brocht the laird.
The solemn elders at the plate
Stand drinkin' deep the pride o' state:
The practised hands as gash an' great
As Lords o' Session;
The later named, a wee thing blate
In their expression.
The prentit stanes that mark the deid,
Wi' lengthened lip, the sarious read;
Syne way a moraleesin' heid,
An then an' there
Their hirplin' practice an' their creed
Try hard to square.
It's here our Merren lang has lain,
A wee bewast the table-stane;
An' yon's the grave o' Sandy Blane;
An' further ower,
The mither's brithers, dacent men!
Lie a' the fower.
Here the guidman sall bide awee
To dwall amang the deid; to see
Auld faces clear in fancy's e'e;
Belike to hear
Auld voices fa'in saft an' slee
On fancy's ear.
Thus, on the day o' solemn things,
The bell that in the steeple swings
To fauld a scaittered faim'ly rings
Its walcome screed;
An' just a wee thing nearer brings
The quick an' deid.
But noo the bell is ringin' in;
To tak their places, folk begin;
The minister himsel' will shune
Be up the gate,
Filled fu' wi' clavers about sin
An' man's estate.
The tunes are up - FRENCH, to be shure,
The faithfu' FRENCH, an' twa-three mair;
The auld prezentor, hoastin' sair,
Wales out the portions,
An' yirks the tune into the air
Wi' queer contortions.
Follows the prayer, the readin' next,
An' than the fisslin' for the text -
The twa-three last to find it, vext
But kind o' proud;
An' than the peppermints are raxed,
For noo's the time whan pows are seen
Nid-noddin' like a mandareen;
When tenty mithers stap a preen
In sleepin' weans;
An' nearly half the parochine
Forget their pains.
There's just a waukrif' twa or three:
Thrawn commentautors sweer to `gree,
Weans glowrin' at the bumlin' bee
Or lads that tak a keek a-glee
At sonsie lasses.
Himsel', meanwhile, frae whaur he cocks
An' bobs belaw the soundin'-box,
The treesures of his words unlocks
An' deals some unco dingin' knocks
Wi' snappy unction, hoo he burkes
The hopes o' men that trust in works,
Expounds the fau'ts o' ither kirks,
An' shaws the best o' them
No muckle better than mere Turks,
When a's confessed o' them.
Bethankit! what a bonny creed!
What mair would ony Christian need? -
The braw words rumm'le ower his heid,
Nor steer the sleeper;
And in their restin' graves, the deid
Sleep aye the deeper.
It may be guessed by some that I had a certain parish in my eye,
and this makes it proper I should add a word of disclamation. In
my time there have been two ministers in that parish. Of the first
I have a special reason to speak well, even had there been any to
think ill. The second I have often met in private and long (in the
due phrase) "sat under" in his church, and neither here nor there
have I heard an unkind or ugly word upon his lips. The preacher of
the text had thus no original in that particular parish; but when I
was a boy he might have been observed in many others; he was then
(like the schoolmaster) abroad; and by recent advices, it would
seem he has not yet entirely disappeared.